Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Can You Come Over and Insult People?

If you’re going to be insulted by anyone, you couldn’t find too many people better than Groucho Marx.

"The One, The Only" did it to ordinary people on camera and off. No one seems to have been offended; I suspected they treated it as a badge of honour.

Here’s a wire service story that showed up in papers around May 21, 1961. That’s the year Groucho gave up You Bet Your Life, a show which didn’t even make it on the air on the east coast on February 2nd because someone forgot to deliver a tape to NBC in New York (the network substituted a documentary on the old Third Avenue El. It’s a shame Groucho didn’t narrate that).

Nowhere does the story mention Groucho’s new kinda-quiz show, Tell It To Groucho, debuting in the fall. Considering its fate, that’s all just as well.

The writer was quite correct about Groucho pretending to be baffled about the end of his quiz show. He told columnist Hal Humphrey the same year that he went with a new show because of residuals, adding that sponsors weren’t lining up to buy time on reruns of You Bet Your Life because the original show was still on the air. No sponsors means no stations, and no stations means no residuals.

Anyway, on to the insults! The drawing accompanied the Pittsburgh Press’ version of the story.

Groucho, the Delight of Hostesses
HOLLYWOOD—Hollywood's most-sought-after guest for parties has no muscles, no sex appeal and rarely smiles. He's Groucho Marx.
Hostesses battle for him, because his wit makes their affairs the talk of the town the next day.
At a recent shindig, a bright-eyed young lady cornered him and told him she wanted her future husband to be able to swim, dance, ski, sing a little and ride horseback.
"You don't want a husband," barked Groucho. "You want a five-man relay team."
At another party, the host was speaking glowingly about famous persons who have lived to be 80 years old or more.
"Anyone can get old," said Groucho. "All you have to do is live long enough."
On one occasion, a clergyman told the comedian: "Mr. Marx, I want to thank you for all the enjoyment you've given the world."
"And I," replied Groucho, "want to thank you for all the enjoyment you've taken out of it."
The clergyman erupted into laughter and asked Groucho's permission to use the story in a sermon.
Rumor has it that Groucho will replace Jack Paar one night a week next fall. Most of Groucho's fans probably aren't aware yet that after 14 years this Marx brother is not coming back with his famous "You Bet Your Life" show next season.
In his own inimitable style, however, Groucho denies he will take over any part of the Paar show.
"Paar is a clever fellow. Everybody has been on the Paar show—Kennedy, Nixon, Billy Graham. Even Paar has been on the Paar show. Come to think of it, Khrushchev never made the Paar show, and that's the acid test. Would you want a leader who hasn't been on the Paar show?"
The eye-rolling humorist appears not to be too upset over the demise of his quiz show, although he is somewhat baffled by it or pretends to be.
"I don't know if the sponsors dropped it, or the agencies or the network. I don't pay attention to those things. But I have no complaint. The show lasted 14 years, 11 of them on TV, and I've made a lot of money and gone through two wives with this show –and four or five NBC presidents."
The comedian, once a top movie star, never took any guff from his sponsors on television.
When he was being feted at a cocktail party for his book, "Groucho and Me," a sponsor representative suggested that he put down his drink before posing for a picture.
"Ridiculous," said Groucho. "People watch TV with drinks in their hands. In fact, people watch television drunk. If they weren't, they wouldn't watch it."
Another time, Groucho was called in because NBC-TV had received some letters about the acid-like way he made some comments.
During the discussion, Groucho asked: "How many letters did we get?"
"Twenty-three," came the reply.
"How many people watch the show?" he asked an aide.
"More than 20,000,000." Without saying another word, Groucho got up and walked out. The network never complained again.
Groucho, in deadpan, mercilessly kids his old friend, restaurateur Mike Romanoff, when he eats at his famous dining place.
"Here comes that phony Russian prince," he says in a stage whisper so that all diners can hear.
Once, Romanoff came over with a smile to greet him and said:
"I just had my dinner."
"I wish you had mine," snapped Groucho.
Groucho is considered the fastest man in town with a line. Once, in a discussion about alimony, he defined it as "feeding oats to a dead horse."
When the conversation turned to gracious living, he offered this definition: "Having an icebox in the tropics."
Groucho is unfailingly polite to children, but cuts down offensive parents. In Romanoff's not long ago, he autographed a menu for a little girl, only to have her father follow her over.
The father offered his hand and said in an irritating manner:
"It's meant a lot to me to shake hands with you."
"It's meant a lot to me too," snapped Groucho. "Probably a skin disease."
Groucho is wealthy, likes to read, play golf and write letters. Of the termination of his show, he says:
"Really, I feel the way Man o’ War must have felt when he was retired. Except, in his case, he was going to stud and I'm just going to seed," says Groucho.

1 comment:

  1. Groucho was born and lived most of his early years almost in the shadow of the Third Avenue el on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so maybe he should have narrated the documentary. Or at least insulted the people in the documentary.